If memories are a proxy for people and places that are no longer there, then video is a space where what is remembered acquires a strange kind of afterlife. For artist Myriam Rey, the recent re-discovery of a box of her father’s home videos precipitated an outpouring of emotions – memories that swirl like the eddies and currents of a river, or that flicker and fissure, in the mind’s eye, like shafts of light through a shimmer of dust or haze. In Rey’s 10-minute video absent landscapes, the past is palpably present, felt like a tremor through the body or a tingle on the skin. The video’s first frames materialise like a test-card image in a sea of interference; a test-card image of a child who we immediately recognise as the infant double of the artist herself, now rocking and swaying as if slightly possessed by the sudden flashes of memory she can see before her. Phantom images from her family archive are video projected onto her face and body, as Rey repeats the same set of almost incantatory phrases in three different languages (Arabic, French and English), as if trying to summon a secret spell or crack an elusive code. Subtle and poetic, absent landscapes is a poignant meditation on the invisible world of personal history that we carry around with us in our heads; images that splinter and fracture even as we try to hold them close, yet which stand out all the more sharply as a consequence.
Read a newly commissioned text by artist Reman Sadani expanding on themes of loss, grief and memory presented within absent landscapes here.